Like Grandpa said,by
'Where there's a will, there's a way'
could solve any problem
reading about the old days, I am continually amazed at the amount of "plain old
common sense" exhibited by the people. |
Great problems were rendered down
to the essentials, then solved. My grandfather, Charlie Trew, often stated, "Where
there's a will, there's a way."
No better examples exist than the problems
of the old-time freighter. Limited by size of wagons and teams, facing rough trails
and terrain, hauling every size, type, weight and fragility of items, he continued
to deliver the western-bound goods to plains, valleys and mountaintops. Maybe
the fact of traveling only 15 miles per day allowed time to think out his problems.
For example, with limited braking equipment, how did he get his loaded wagons
down steep hills? Common sense told him to chain his rear wheels so they could
not turn and let them slide down the hill, providing braking.
used six-horse teams pulling two loaded wagons in tandem. Six horses could easily
pull the two wagons out on level ground until they came to a creek crossing with
embankments on each side. Instead of unhooking the rear wagon and pulling the
front wagon up the embankment, then going for the second wagon, they pulled a
hitch pin leaving the rear wagon sitting at the foot of the embankment but still
attached by a long chain or heavy rope playing out its length.
first wagon reached level ground, the teams were unhitched from that wagon and
attached to the long chain. They were urged forward pulling the second wagon up
the embankment to be re-hooked to the front wagon. The teams were then backed
up to where they could be re-hooked to the front wagon tongue, and the train continued
When the old wagon trains encountered a unscalable cliff,
the rear wheels of a wagon were jacked up, anchored and used as windlasses to
lower the other wagons and freight with ropes.
tale passed down by a freighter's journal told of a wagon driver named Hank who
hauled wooden barrels of whiskey to the frontier saloons. Though Hank was always
on time and dependable, he was also continually inebriated on his hauls.
His employers could find no bottles nor any signs of tampering among the wooden
whiskey barrels. Saloon owners could find no evidence of noticeable lowering of
whiskey levels in their delivered stock, other than natural evaporation.
barrels arrived with bungs tight, yet Hank could barely walk across the street
after parking his wagon. They had to admit he was sober enough to do the job yet
drunk enough to thoroughly enjoy the long, boring trips. It was a real western
Only after the railroads arrived and his wagon became obsolete
did Hank finally reveal his secret. Somewhere, hidden in his camp gear and personal
equipment, Hank had a small wood auger with which to drill a hole in the lid of
the whiskey barrel sitting nearest his wagon seat. Using long grass straws or
joint grass lengths he could sip whiskey at his leisure yet not lower the levels
in the barrel to where it would be noticed.
As he approached the end of
his journey, he merely whittled a wooden peg the right size and length, drove
it into the hole and smudged mud or wagon wheel grease over the spot, completely
hiding the evidence. As my grandfather said, "Where there's a will there's a way."
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
February 23, 2010